Appeasement: selling out on missile defence

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Is there anyone who seriously believes that Canadian support for this project will advance world peace?

Appeasement is one of the most important words of the 20th century. Winston Churchill was the famous opponent of this policy of conciliation, which can also be thought of as a willingness to sell out others, in order to gain peace for yourself.

When the U.K. government tried to appease Hitler at Munich by handing over a part of Czechoslovakia, Winston roared that the dictator would come back for more now that his appetite had been whetted, since the policy of Germany was mastery of Europe.

Under Mackenzie King, the Liberals supported appeasement. It was widely thought the Treaty of Versailles which ended World War I was unjust, and that Germany's legitimate grievances should be met. This explains the support in Canada (and elsewhere) for the appeasement policy until Munich.

Churchill's triumph — he was right, his opponents wrong; they adopted his policies, and invited him to lead them in a new direction — inspired American leaders to label as appeasers those who opposed the war in Vietnam.

The inaccuracy of the historical analogy was obvious: communism was not fascism, Ho Chi Minh was not Hitler, the Indochina peninsula was not Europe, and the struggle for national liberation was not an attempt to conquer and enslave other nations.

While the Americans lost the Vietnam war, their appetite for Churchill-like victories remains. The years since the world saw American soldiers evacuate Saigon have amounted to a 30-year-war to maintain American economic, and political preeminence. The fall of the Berlin Wall, and the break-up of the Soviet Union have changed little in the world of U.S. policy-makers. The pursuit of world military supremacy continues.

Mel Hurtig's new book Rushing to Armageddon shows the new insecurity arising from the American plan to deploy a so-called missile defence system. Other great powers, notably Russia and China, are signaling their intent to follow suit, and renew their nuclear arsenals. The folly of missile defence leads to a continued misallocation of world resources which are badly needed for eradication of disease and meeting basic needs.

As announced in interviews given by its defence minister, the Paul Martin government policy on missile defence is apologetic. It will cost Canada nothing to participate, there are no plans to deploy U.S. interceptor missiles on our territory, we will benefit from the enhanced defence capability, and since the Americans are going ahead anyway, we gain nothing by opposing missile defence. This is the government line.

In a word, the Liberal policy towards the United States is appeasement.

If Paul Martin were a real world leader, he would give a speech at Yale University laying out the dangers for world peace of the American missile defence scheme. His speech writers could choose from various irrefutable arguments, and winning themes. Missile defence is understood as enhanced first strike capacity by other great powers, thus threatening deterrence. The domestic benefits for the U.S. of de-escalation of the arms build-up are great; mortgaging national credit to put missiles in space imposes steep costs in lost opportunities for education, housing, transport, etc.

Expect nothing of the sort to come out of Ottawa. Another way of defining appeasement is as a bribe. By making concessions to American policy, which is driven by the desire to increase military domination, and sacrificing principles of multilateral cooperation to build common security, the policy supported by the Canadian public, the Martin government wants something in return.

What is it that is driving Liberal appeasement? Only this: to be pardoned for not providing troops to Iraq, and be excused for wanting cross border trade (often between American corporations on either side of the border) to go ahead without security concerns closing the Ambassador bridge to, say, General Motors products. No wonder that the next Canadian ambassador to Washington is rumoured to be the head of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, Tom d'Aquino.

The issues raised by missile defence go to the heart of what makes a world dominated by great power politics unacceptable. The legitimate concerns of the world are ignored while the hegemonic power follows its own blueprint.

Canadian support for missile defence represents an abdication of our role as an independent country with a role to play in the world. Canada stands for international co-operation through the UN, or it supports American unilateralism; it acts in concert with others who oppose the project, or it adopts the role of lackey.

Is there anyone who seriously believes that Canadian support for this project will advance world peace? No. Nor will it improve Canada's standing in Washington. The next time the Americans want something from us our participation will gain us no leverage, and when we want their support our non-participation will lose us no advantage.

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